The Kingdom of God is like the Odor of Skunk

skunk-1239764_640The kingdom of God is like the odor of a skunk.

It’s distinctive. Powerful. It permeates. It lingers. It offends. It clings. It’s impossible to forget and a challenge to eliminate once you’ve encountered it. That’s how some people experience the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is also like the smoke of a campfire. It’s distinctive. Powerful. It permeates. It lingers. It welcomes. It awakens ancient memories of community, of relationship, of being one with nature, of being small under the stars, of being seen by God.

The kingdom of this world is the stench of death.

It’s distinctive. Powerful. It permeates. It lingers. It repels even as it fascinates. Those who emit it are unaware of their own stench by virtue of the fact that the dead no longer experience sensation – they can only be detected by the living.

Each of us emits an odor. Like Pigpen from Peanuts, we produce a cloud that touches those with whom we come in contact with either the odor of the kingdom of this world or the aroma of the kingdom of God. 

I was putting gas in my car this week. I’m feeling self-conscious about the pounds I’ve put on in the past months, so I’m sensitive. As I returned to the driver’s side of my car, a small dog barked at me. The man in the car next to mine snatched up the little schnauzer saying, “Get away from her, buddy. She’s bigger than you are. Waaaaayyyyyy bigger.”

We were strangers. I was no threat to him or his dog. And yet, he felt it necessary to engage in a random act of unkindness. That’s the stench of death. That’s the odor of the kingdom of this world and it clung to me for hours until I took it to the Lord and He removed the sting.

Every moment of every day, we make a choice about how we will interact with the world. Jesus followers should be agents of grace and truth. The kingdom of God should rise around us like Pigpen’s dustcloud, touching every person and situation we encounter with the scent of eternal life.

Even if people don’t know we stand for Jesus, their encounter with us should be like someone brushing past them who smells of warm apple pie or fresh citrus so they’re left asking, “What was that? I want more of it.” Scents evoke powerful responses in all of us. The scent of a Christian should stir others to remember that they were made for so much more.

Remember that the odor of the kingdom of God is experienced differently by different people. To those who reject Jesus Christ, the scent of a believer will be like a spray of skunk. To those being drawn to Christ, it will smell like an open door to home, a campfire leading them back to the circle where they have always belonged. To those who are dying, it will be a wretched stench.

Paul says it like this: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)

What do you smell like to your neighbor and to the people you encounter throughout the day? Does the aroma of the kingdom surround you like Pigpen’s cloud or are you neutralizing the aroma through disobedience, fear, or small love?

Let me encourage you to reek like Christ without censor and to perfume those around you with grace and the hope of home, our eternal home, where life springs up eternally and the scent of death is no more.

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4 Comments

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  1. Maxine D says:

    This has been such an encouragement Lori – I have recently changed my attitude about a series of offences being committed against me and now have peace, and I have planned a gentle response, should I be harassed again.
    Thank you for reminding me of this powerful fact – we leave an odour wherever we go, and it is up to us to determine which odour we leave!
    Blessings
    Maxine

    • Well, sometimes we can give off the same scent and it’s received different ways but we do need to be sure it’s always the scent of heaven and not the smell of religious nonsense.

  2. Carla Allaire says:

    Thanks, Lori, for the powerful reminder. I tell my girls we should make Jesus look so attractive that people would be INSANE not to accept Him! That involves our mouths and our scent. Our aura should be one of grace and mercy–returning sweet words for sour. I know this is hard, and the crucifying of our flesh isn’t popular, but if we ARE to win the world, it won’t be with fire and brimstone, it will be with Jesus’ sweet Words ‘I loved you enough to die for you.’ May we examine ourselves today and make sure our aroma lingers far after we have left the room, and that it will make a difference in someone’s life.

    God bless!